The most successful or famous artists are not always as happy as successful people are portrayed- living a life of fame, fortune, and glamour. The following examples will show some of the problems that four different artists have suffered in the past century.
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter who lived from March 30, 1853 to July 29, 1890. He is now one of the most famous painters in modern art (World Book 306). He only sold one painting in his living days, but now his paintings are considered priceless.
Some of his paintings and drawings include:
The Bedroom at Arles 1888
Vase with 12 Sunflowers 1888
Langlois Bridge with Women Washing 1888
Those are just a few of his accomplishments, though he has created many, many more works of art.
In 1888, artist Paul Gaugin moved into Vincent’s house with him. At first everything worked out fine, but within the year, their personalities started to clash, and big problems arose. Then, on December 23, 1888, Paul Gaugin was taking a walk in the nearby public garden, when, according to his memoir “Avant et Apres,” Vincent chased after Gaugin with an open razor blade. But, when Gaugin turned around, Vincent turned and ran home. Gaugin decided that this threat was too much for him to take, so he checked into a hotel room for the night. When Paul Gaugin arrived at home the next morning, he saw a crowd of police officers and citizens surrounding the house. When he went in the house he saw that there was blood everywhere- on towels and blankets, then a trail leading up the stairs. When he got to Vincent’s bedroom, he found him curled up on his bed covered in sheets pink with blood. Gaugin thought Vincent was dead, but when he went to touch his friend’s hand, it radiat! ed warmth from his friend’s body (Sweetman 290). Gaugin found out later that Vincent had cut off almost his whole left ear, wrapped it in newspaper, and given it to his friend Rachel. He then said “Guard this object carefully” (Sweetman 293).
Some reasons speculated for this unusual self-destruction were:
2. He failed to harm Paul Gaugin so he turned the violence on himself?
3. He was just filled with self-loathing?
It was later discovered that he was tormented by voices and was having hallucinations. Had he attempted to silence the voices by cutting off the offending organ? (Sweetman 294)
Vincent van Gogh began having nervous attacks in 1888, and his doctor diagnosed him with having some sort of epilepsy. He then went back to painting (Sweetman 296). Vincent was fully conscious of his state, and after about four months he went to live at the asylum of St. Paul-de-Mausole. He left the asylum after a few months and returned to painting again. But the nervous attacks did not stop. Then in 1890 when he realized that his epileptic state was incurable, he committed suicide (Sweetman 303).
On July 27, 1890, Vincent van Gogh attempted suicide- but he didn’t die. After lunch, Vincent went to Chateau d’Auvers. He leaned his easel against a haystack, and went down to the Chateau wall. He held a revolver to his chest, pulled the trigger, and fainted. When he came to, he searched for the weapon he had used, but could not find it. So he got up and walked to a friend’s house in town (Sweetman 341). The friends called a doctor, and the doctor dressed the bullet wound. No vital organ including the heart had been hit. But the doctors decided that if Vincent wanted to die, they would let him. He was not taken to a hospital, and the doctors left (Sweetman 342). On July 28, 1890, Theodore, Vincent’s brother came to where Vincent was staying. Though he was in good condition, as the day wore on, infection set in Because doctors believed that leaving the wound alone and not taking out the bullet would make it heal faster. There was a period where suffocation was near as he struggled for breath. When Theodore realized that his only brother was dying, he got on the bed beside Vincent and cradled his head in his arms. “I wish I could pass away like this,” Vincent said. Half an hour later, his last wish was granted. Vincent van Gogh died at 1:30 in the morning, July 29, 1890 (Sweetman 343).
James Douglas Morrison was the lead singer in the very popular late 1960’s rock group “The Doors.” He was born in 1943, and he died in 1971.
His long list of accomplishments includes his albums:
The Doors – January, 1967
Strange Days – October, 1967
Waiting for the Sun – July, 1968
The Soft Parade – July, 1969
Morrison Hotel – February, 1970
Absolutely Live – July, 1970
13 – November, 1970
L.A. Woman – April, 1971
These albums were all made with “The Doors” (Riordan-Prochnicky 515). On July 2, 1971, Jim and his wife Pamela were sleeping in their Paris apartment, when Jim awoke coughing and complaining of chest pains, and decided to take a bath. When Pam woke at about 5 a.m. on July 3, Jim hadn’t come back to bed. She checked in the bathroom and saw him still in the tub. Then she realized the horrible truth- he was dead (Riordan-Prochnicky 451).
There were many different reasons speculated about the cause of his death:
Blood clots in his lung
Heart Attacks (Riordan-Prochnicky 458)
The official death certificate of Jim Morrison said that he died of heart failure. But heart failure is not a direct cause of death- it is a result of something else that causes death (Riordan-Prochnicky 453). Jim’s death also may have been a result of the pressures of being a rock star.
Around June of 1971, Jim Morrison made this statement:
I’m 27 years old. This is too old to be a rock singer. It doesn’t make sense anymore. I’m so sick of everything. People keep thinking of me as a rock ‘n’ roll star and I don’t want anything to do with it. I can’t stand it anymore (Riordan-Prochnicky 447).
The cause of Jim Morrison’s death remained unknown for years, but one day in the early 1980’s, an unidentified source came forward and said:
On the night of July 2, 1971, Pam called a very close friend of mine. She was all in tears and said that Jim had gotten into her heroin and overdosed. She didn’t want that to come out, so she worked out a plan and covered it up.
This was later confirmed to be the official cause of Jim Morrison’s death by Diane Gardiner, who was Pam Morrison’s closest friend at the time of Jim Morrison’s intentional death (Riordan-Prochnicky 458).
Virginia Stephen Woolf was a very talented writer who lived from January 25, 1882 to March 28, 1941.
These are some of the books that she has written:
The Voyage Out – 1915
Kew Gardens – 1919
Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown – 1924
The Common Reader – 1925
Orlando – 1928
A Letter to a Young Poet – 1932
The Common Reader: 2nd Series – 1932
The Years – 1937
Pointz Hall (Between the Acts) was finished on February 26, 1941. It was published after her death. She was also awarded the Femina de Heureuse prize in May of 1928 (Bell 252).
On the morning of March 28, 1941, Virginia wrote both her husband and her sister letters telling them how important they were to her. She then walked to the river near her house. Leaving her walking stick on the bank next to the river, she forced a huge rock into the pocket of her coat. Then she jumped into the ice cold river- her death (Bell 226). The only known reason of her suicide is that World War II was going on and this extremely disturbed her. It gave her a strange mental illness, and she began to hear voices. The voices told her to end her life so he did- by drowning herself.
Kurt Donald Cobain was the singer and lead guitarist in the band “Nirvana.” He was born February 20, 1967, and he died April 8, 1994.
Some of his accomplishments include his 5 albums:
Bleach – June, 1989
Blew – December, 1989
Nevermind – September, 1991
Incesticide – December, 1992
In Utero – September, 1993
These albums were all made by Kurt and the other two members of Nirvana.
Nirvana has also contributed some of their songs to other albums:
“Mexican Seafood” on Teriyaki Asthma Vol. 1, November, 1989.
“Do You Love Me” on “Kiss” tribute album Hard to Believe.
“Beeswax” on Kill Rock Stars compilation, August, 1991.
“Return of the Rat” on Eight Songs for Greg Sage and the Wipers, June, 1992.
“Verse, Chorus, Verse” on No Alternative compilation, 1993
Before Kurt Cobain actually committed suicide, he attempted it once in a hotel in Rome, Italy, in March of 1994. He fell into a coma after ingesting a reported 50 tablets of Rohypnol, which is a powerful depressant. He was very close to death in the coma, but he came out of it and lived (Azzerad 344). Around April 6, 1994 Kurt Cobain’s mother filed a missing person report on Kurt when he ran away from a California treatment facility. She said that he had bought a shotgun and he may be suicidal. Then, on April 8, 1994, Kurt Cobain was found shot to death in his home in Seattle, Washington. Gary Smith was an electrician who had come to the house of Kurt Cobain, Kurt’s wife Courtney Love, and their daughter Francis Bean Cobain to install a security system, when he found Kurt’s body in the second floor of the garage with a suicide note nearby. Smith called the police, and the police could not identify the body, but they took him to a hospital and a doctor there identified the body to be that of Kurt Cobain (Maples 7).
Kurt Cobain supposedly had many problems in his life. Some medical problems were an incurable stomach pain, chronic bronchitis, and scoliosis. But, there were many reasons that were theorized for his suicide. He was depressed because:
a) His band was on the verge of breaking up.
b) His marriage to Courtney Love was “on the rocks.”
But the reason that many of his fans have found believable was the fact that he had re-entered his heroin habit that he had just recently overcome. This was so devastating to him that he just couldn’t take it and took the easiest way out- suicide (Maples 7).
These artists all have gone to the extreme of committing suicide. And though many of their works have been exemplary, the endings of their lives definitely were not.